Archives for December, 2011


Is Personality The Secret To Long Life?

C.R. writes:

I was scanning the headlines for articles about marriage and divorce and came across this little blog post by Christopher Shea at the Wall Street Journal. In it, he talks about psychologist Howard S. Friedman's book The Longevity Project (which he co-authored with psychologist Leslie R. Martin).

The original "Longevity Project" (in case the name sounds familiar to you) is—the study is still ongoing—a research project first created by psychologist Lewis Terman in 1921. In the study, 1500 children were chosen and followed from childhood through adulthood (and, when it occurred, death) in order to assess which factors led to long life.

Dr. Friedman himself followed some of these people for the past twenty years in order to identify, if possible, character and behavioral traits that might contribute to longevity (or its reverse). He writes in the introduction to his book:
Surprisingly, the long-lived among [the study subjects] did not find the secret to health in broccoli, medical tests, vitamins, or jogging. Rather, they were individuals with certain constellations of habits and patterns of living. Their personalities, career trajectories, and social lives proved highly relevant to their long-term health, often in ways we did not expect.
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Best of Therapy Soup: 2011

We began Therapy Soup in January, 2010. Now C.R. and I are starting our third year blogging on PsychCentral and we wanted to let you know that we're so grateful to you for your comments, compliments and criticisms. We were often surprised by which posts were the most controversial and which posts got the most feedback. You've kept us on our toes. We're also especially grateful to the PsychCentral readers who allowed us to tell their stories in our blog.

We're saying "Happy Birthday" to Therapy Soup by posting some of the "best" (includes controversial and criticized posts, too) of Therapy Soup, 2011:
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Happy Hanukkah

This week we are hosting some Hanukkah parties for some of our favorite guests with mental illness and/or addiction. We've invited speakers and are plying everyone with potato pancakes and other treats. So far, the response has been tremendous. C.R. and I have learned we aren't alone in thinking the Festival of Lights has special significance for those in recovery.

In the spirit of Hanukkah, we'd like to share some insights into the holiday's enduring (over 2100 years) observances, which might be relevant to you, PsychCentral reader:

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No Dumping Allowed: Dealing With Family Get-Togethers In 3 Steps

As family get-togethers are more frequent this time of year, many people find dealing with difficult, painful or otherwise challenging family relationships, unavoidable.  It is specially hard to cope with family issues and the stress of holidays if you are also coping with depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, or other mental illnesses.

As those of you who've read Therapy Revolution know, we're big on figuring out what your agenda is. Sure, life doesn't always (or even usually) go according to plan, but identifying your goals and choosing and practicing methods that will help you achieve your goals takes some of the anxiety out of difficult situations.

Your goal is to enjoy (if possible) your family get-togethers or at least minimize and cope with the triggers, stress, and conflict that may arise.

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6 Reasons I Was An Easy Target For A Cult

C.R. writes -- Lisa's story continues:

I've been waiting for "Lisa's" and my schedule to sync up and it finally has. Today, Lisa identifies 6 qualities that she feels made her a target for Shire, who recruited her, and a target for the cult in general. (She wants to talk about what went on with Shire and the cult next time).

1. Abusive, Uncaring Parents: Her parents were not supportive of Lisa and in fact, were abusive of her. They were both invasive and uncaring (a seemingly odd mix, but one that is more common that you might think). Lisa had poor boundaries, little sense of self-worth due to the emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her parents, especially her mom. Because her parents had little interest in Lisa, especially when she became a teenager, they never talked with her about serious matters. Lisa says, "My parents were the last two people on the planet I felt I could confide in or trust."

2. Poor Self-Image: Continued abuse and neglect caused Lisa to have feelings of worthlessness. She felt she didn't deserve to be treated respectfully or lovingly, and indeed, was unable to even identify what respectful or loving behaviors were. She had been treated repeatedly as if she were repulsive therefore she believed herself to be repulsive.
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Cult Trap

C.R. writes - Lisa's story continues:

Cults (and their leaders, whether hidden or known) need people because people are their life-blood. Without people, there's no cult. Cults need people for their money, for their service, and to increase their size and importance, which gives the cult power.

So in many cults, a lot of the time, training and money are put into recruiting. Shire was the recruiter who first contacted Lisa.
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How I Ended Up In A Cult

C.R. writes: Remember Lisa? Here's some more of her story:

Lisa was diagnosed with clinical depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) a few years ago, shortly after she left the cult. She doesn't however feel the cult caused her mental illness, she feels that her mental illness was the reason she ended up in the cult in the first place. She traces the causes directly to her family of origin.

Her father was what Lisa calls "a civilized alcoholic." He was a college professor at the prestigious university in their home town. Her mother was a much-admired journalist and was very involved with social justice causes. She even won an international award and numerous other awards for her work.

"My dad drank before dinner, drank after dinner, and drank on most social occasions. Because he drank expensive scotch and wine, somehow it was accepted. But he embarrassed himself on several occasions. He wasn't a mean drunk, he was kind of an absent drunk. He sort of let my mother run rampant. He would watch her "torturing" my sister and me, and would kind of nod in sympathy, but do nothing to stop her."
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